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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #436

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Welcome to the four hundred and thirty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and thirty-five. This week, was Kitty Pryde invented as part of a whole new team of X-Men? Was Helena Bertinelli as Huntress saved from extinction by Chuck Dixon? Finally, in what odd way did Charlie Brown’s first home run come about?

Let’s begin!

NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).

COMIC LEGEND: Kitty Pryde was originally going to be part of a brand-new team of X-Men

STATUS: True Enough for a True

Since this month is the 50th Anniversary of the X-Men, I figured I’d do an X-Men related legend.

This one goes back to the early 1980s, when Chris Claremont and John Byrne were working on X-Men together. Then Marvel Editor-in-Chief, Jim Shooter, decided that the pair should highlight the school aspect of the X-Men more. The school part of the X-Men had really not been a big part of the book since the X-Men had “graduated” in the late 1960s but Claremont and Byrne were game. First off, they intended to have Professor Xavier training Jean Grey in her new Phoenix powers to get the school idea into the book but then Byrne came up with the idea of adding a new team of younger mutants who would be students at Xavier’s with the notion being that when they “graduated” they would become members of the X-Men.

Eventually Shooter turned down the idea because he felt it sounded too much like the Legion of Substitute Heroes, but one of the mutants invented for this idea, Kitty Pryde, ended up joining the team in X-Men #129.

kitty

xmen139

The other mutants intended for the team were Willie Evans, from the then-classic (now a woefully underrated story) Fantastic Four #203…

ff203-1

ff203-2

ff203-3

and another new mutant known as Caliban…

caliban

Unrelated to the other mutant known as Caliban who eventually was added to the title…

xmen179

While it was squelched in 1980, obviously this idea was pretty much the exact idea behind New Mutants a couple of years later, right down to the concept of them wearing the old X-Men uniforms…

newmutants

Thanks to Michael T. Anderson for the information about these Substitute X-Men. Check out his site here for even more information about the idea.
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Check out some Entertainment and Sports Urban Legends Revealed!

Did Pat Boone Re-Record Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” and Change the Name of the song to “Isn’t That a Shame”?

Was Ron Howard Hired for Happy Days Based on His Performance in American Graffiti?

Was One of the Most Famous NFL Photographs Ever Never Actually Printed in a Newspaper?

What is the Official “Rock Song” of the State of Ohio?

Did Marty McFly Originally Travel Back to the Future in a Refrigerator?!

Did England Once Try to Arrest the Creator of a Pseudonym for Stories He Didn’t Write?
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On the next page, how close did the Huntress come to being rebooted in the 1990s?

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59 Comments

While the average White American is as receptive to the idea of Black superheroes, as they are to a Black guy dating their sister, it is funny to see progressive writers throw Black people a bone. “Hey, let’s include that black kid”. He probably resembled on of the kids on Diff’rent Strokes. Of course Willie Evans (J.J. ‘s little bro?) has never been seen again.

The same thing goes on today. I understand for cultural reason Black heroes have to be gently inculcated into comic book mythos, but it’s almost hilarious that the Avengers movies get the “blacked over” Nick Fury, while the X-Men movie franchise has Storm and the “first person killed is a Black guy” Darwin.

I want to make a snarky comment, but seeing that somersaulting Charlie Brown just makes me smile.

Of course Willie Evans (J.J. ‘s little bro?) has never been seen again.

Worse, they brought him back and killed him off in an Iron Man Annual.

Damn I miss Peanuts and Good Ol’ Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang. This century sucks!

BTW the above is not (necessarily) meant in a
Black people should hate Whitey for centuries of mistreatment” manner. It more of a 2013 “we should laugh at this silliness” manner.

The funny thing about Byrne’s offhand reference to “that black kid from F.F. 203″ is that I immediately knew exactly who he meant. That was the first issue of Fantastic Four I ever bought, because I absolutely had to know what was going on with that cover.

Brian. I forgot about the IM annual where Willie appeared. Bringing back one shots and killing them off in annuals is fairly common.

It’s interesting that the “visor” part of that Caliban design seems to have made its way into the design of the costume Caliban eventually wore briefly in Simonson-era X-Factor, despite pretty much everything else being different.

The funny thing about Byrne’s offhand reference to “that black kid from F.F. 203? is that I immediately knew exactly who he meant. That was the first issue of Fantastic Four I ever bought, because I absolutely had to know what was going on with that cover.

Yeah, like I mentioned, at the time, that issue of FF was a big deal. Everyone would know what Byrne meant. But for whatever reason, the issue has lost some of its acclaim over the years. I dunno why.

My…God! My eyes!

I dropped the books about this time – I just couldn’t take that art! It looks even worse than I remember.

Heh, Heh…whoops. I meant the psuedo-Image art in ‘Tec. Well, it a LOT of books in the 90s.

Who or what drew those Detective covers?

Who or what drew those Detective covers?

Very early Travis Charest.

A young Travis Charest, wasn’t it?

Damn, just beat me, Brian. :)

“Who or what drew those Detective covers?”

Travis Charest ?

I’m late to the party as usual I see….

Yeah, the Huntress redesign was pretty horrible. Not that she looks that good in the first cover image either. Helena went through some unfortunate costumes. No wonder she and Dick Grayson got along.

The Crazed Spruce

September 13, 2013 at 11:15 am

Looked like Travis Charest to me, but in the time it took me to confirm with the GCD, two other people already answered.

Charest did get better later, IIRC. Maybe by the time of Darkstars…?

But yeah, those covers looks like you could probably find a Jim Lee issue they were swiped from.

Small waists that couldn’t possibly exist in reality and pouches? Looks more Liefeld-inspired to me…

“Small waists that couldn’t possibly exist in reality and pouches? Looks more Liefeld-inspired to me…”

Except with feet added.

Occasionally.

Two quotes from 2011 by John Byrne about the New Mutants.

“With the Whim of Iron in full vigor, Shooter one day decided that the defining factor of the X-Men, the thing that made them who and what they were, was that they were a school. In fact, they had not really been a school in YEARS — Stan and Jack had them graduate somewhere around issue 9 — and if you asked anyone else at Marvel, or any fan, they would tell you the defining element was “feared and hated by the world they are sworn to protect”. But Shooter would have none of that. It was a school! We would play it as a school, starting NOW.

Of course, for people like Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Banshee, the school aspect made no sense. Even Nightcrawler had had years of training, in the circus.

So I came up with the idea of bringing in a bunch of “new mutants” who would be the students and (yay!) wear the original uniforms, while the existing characters were the teachers.

Shooter stomped on it, tho, claiming it WAS the “Legion of Substitute X-Men.” A few years later, when it was HIS idea, this was not a problem.”

and

“One slightly amusing — perhaps even bordering on ironic — moment that came out of the birth of the New Mutants was Shooter calling me up one day to ask if I intended to “make trouble” over this book. It seemed he actually remembered the idea had originally been mine, and wanted to know if I intended to make any “claim” on the book — like, for royalties, for instance.
I assured him that if Chris promised to make no “claim” on ALPHA FLIGHT, which was also in launch mode at that time, I would make no “claim” on NEW MUTANTS.

(Chris’ only contribution to Alpha Flight, as some of you may recall, had been the name of the group.)”

Yeah, Willie Evans was killed in Iron Man Annual #8, which also featured an early guest appearance from X-Factor. So there’s some weird, likely unintentional symmetry in a character who at one point was going to feature in the first X-Men spinoff being killed off in an issue featuring the characters from the second X-Men spinoff.

Brian, thanks for the link to Michael’s blog – I definitely will be checking it out.

Chuck Dixion has been one of my favorite Bat authors. The reason being is that he’ll take what continuity throws at him, but keeps the “best” version of the character in their behavior. It’s his actual plots that are memorable, they are interesting.

Granted to my knowledge he doesn’t do anything “ground breaking” like Morrison or Gaimen, but they are always timeless and a great read. His Robin, Nightwing and Bird of Prey series were awesome.

I just wish he would have gotten ahold of Ted Kord Blue Beetle. He would have done great with the character.

Yeah, like I mentioned, at the time, that issue of FF was a big deal. Everyone would know what Byrne meant. But for whatever reason, the issue has lost some of its acclaim over the years. I dunno why.

I’m guessing the whole bringing back the black kid just to kill him off thing probably tarnished the legacy of that issue? (Just speculating)

Charest did get better later, IIRC. Maybe by the time of Darkstars…?

I’m pretty sure these covers were simultaneous to, or even after, Charest did Darkstars. I remember actually liking these covers when they came out, but now when I look at them…ugh.

Small waists that couldn’t possibly exist in reality and pouches? Looks more Liefeld-inspired to me…

No, I say that art is definitely more Lee-inspired. Lee was just as guilty of impossibly small waists and pouches and questionable body proportions as Liefeld. But especially is Lee-ish are those faces and the side shot of the thonged buttock and that certain “why won;t my hips unsway” pose that I credit Jim Lee with creating.

My…God! My eyes!

I dropped the books about this time – I just couldn’t take that art! It looks even worse than I remember.

Charest only did the covers. The interior art was still Aparo, Breyfogle, Blevins, Nolan, and Manley, none of whom had a very 90s style. You dropped the books just based on the covers? Also, Charest didn’t do that many covers. He was quickly replaced on covers by Kelley Jones, who in my minority opinion was far worse. When he started doing interiors I quit the Batbooks.

So, has anyone mentioned Travis Charest’s covers…………..

I remember smiling at that Peanuts strip. It was great to see Schulz throw him a bone, after nearly 50 years. I had high hopes that he would get to kick the football in the final strip, but some things never change.

I’m rather tickled by the Byrne comments cited above. He loves to take shots at people who take credit for a concept that has been done before or suggested elsewhere (Shooter and the New Mutants and the Image guys just redoing their Marvel books when they first started up) and then pretty much does the same thing in his creator-owned work (Next Men/X-Men, Danger Unlimited/Fantastic Four, Torch of Liberty/Captain America). Byrne’s a fine artist and can be a darn good writer and Shooter can be a great writer, at times; but, how their egos ever co-existed for as long as they did is astounding.

I’m guessing the whole bringing back the black kid just to kill him off thing probably tarnished the legacy of that issue? (Just speculating)

I dunno, Marvel turned the guy who wrote the column in “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man” into a super-villain, so old classics tend to be untarnishable.

Jeff. I agree on Shooter/Byrne. Both have storylines whose effects are still reverberating 3 decades later. But neither one could keep from stepping on the other’s toes. Shooter gave Byrne the FF for his tremendous run. Byrne, it seems, never got over Shooter’s “interference’ on his Marvel Team Up run. Wonder what great comics got squelched because of egos.

Even though Dixon didn’t officially reboot the character, in a way I do consider it a reboot because the way she acted when she came to Gotham was completely different than the way Cavalieri charaterized her in her solo series. Not that I’m complaining. I enjoyed both characterizations.

I’m torn about Chuck Dixon’s Batman. Exceptionally well-crafted, and great plots and dialogue, but to me he was the person most responsible for making the modern-day post-Crisis Batman into the humorless, dour, Frank Miller asshole Batman. After Dark Knight Returns and Year One, the mainstream modern-day Batman got a bit darker but still was pretty well-rounded and would smile occasionally and joke and had a lot of his pre-Crisis humanity. Modern-day Batman didn’t fully turn into the Frank Miller Batman overnight. Under writers like Barr, Milligan, Moench, Grant, and others, you could still see much of the pre-Crisis Bronze Age Batman in his personality. To me, it wasn’t until Dixon that we firmly got the Frank Miller Batman in the modern day books, and the character in my opinion suffered as a result. Then again, he may not have been to blame. Maybe Denny O’Neil as editor ordered the change. He seemed to be a true believer in the Frank Miller Batman characterization.

Ye gods those Detective Comics covers are dreadful. I’ve seen enough of Charest’s early work to know it was him, but even knowing it in advance, it’s hard to believe. Damn, that’s some bad art. Let that be a lesson kids: Hard work pays off.

That FF 203 story had pencils/layouts by Keith Pollard, if I’m not mistaken. Man, I loved that guy’s work when I was a kid. I always thought it was a shame that he didn’t get more fan acclaim.

I dunno, Marvel turned the guy who wrote the column in “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man” into a super-villain, so old classics tend to be untarnishable.

Well, I think there are a few key differences. Conover was a somewhat incidental to the Kid Who Collected Spider-Man story in my humble opinion, although maybe others feel differently. For example I have read that story dozens of times since my childhood, but it’s only last year that I ever even noticed that Jacob Conover was the writer of the news article that framed the story. I only noticed it this time around because now the name meant something to me, whereas before it didn’t. Willie Evans though is at the heart of the plot to the FF issue and is the main focus of the book.

Also, there’s the possibility of unintentional racism at play also. Willie Evans was notable because it defied so many expectations and stereotypes regarding minority characters. As a black guy, I remember me and many of my black friends used to notice about how black heroes were all either stereotypes (Luke Cage’s jive talk), inferior sidekicks, copies of established white heroes (Rhodey, Jon Stewart), or underpowered (Black Panther, Falcon), or obvious cannon fodder to get beat up or killed or taken hostage in fights.

Willie Evans was a pretty unique character for his time and defied a lot of stereotypes. If I remember correctly he was middle class rather than ghetto. He was ridiculously overpowered. He was not a copy of a white hero. He wasn’t inferior to the white heroes in the book. For him to then just be reduced to cannon fodder like many black characters in predominately white stories not only undoes all those groundbreaking aspects, but does it in one of the most stereotypical ways possible. So now, whenever you bring up the original groundbreaking story, one also has to bring up in the following breath the super-stereotypical way he ended up. Meanwhile, with The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man, it’s far less likely to come up in conversation about the story what the ultimate fate of Jacob Conover was, and even if you did it’s more like a trivia question or incidental footnote rather than something considered a sequel to the original story.

All of this of course is just my theorizing and speculation.

Caliban and Ariel, huh?

Someone had recently read The Tempest….

Caliban and Ariel, huh?

Someone had recently read The Tempest….

I believe Byrne specifically mentioned coming up with Caliban for that reason. “If there’s an Ariel, there might as well be a Caliban.” Even after he left the book, Claremont followed that point by making the Morlock who tries to force Kitty to marry him be Caliban.

@T- they didn’t just kill him off, they also revealed that he killed his mother. I thought it was a decent story but I was probably too young to notice any racial implications.

@ T.

“He was quickly replaced on covers by Kelley Jones, who in my minority opinion was far worse. ”

Wow. I thought I was the only one. I never cared for Kelley Jones art. I didn’t like it when he was doing Micronauts and I really hated his Batman work (How many ribs does a human have? Do you think Jones knows, because I don’t think he knows.) I dropped both books when he did them. To this day, I stay far away from his work. Of course YMMV.

emac1790 – I thought I was the only one who hated Kelley Jones’s art also! That’s why I put “in my minority opinion.” I never understood why he was praised by the same people who hate Liefeld’s anatomy. I mean sure he can draw feet and backgrounds, but his anatomy is as bad if not worse!

I dunno, Marvel turned the guy who wrote the column in “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man” into a super-villain, so old classics tend to be untarnishable.

The Kid Who COLLECTS Spider-Man, Brian. Present tense. :)

I don’t know why, but a lot of people seem to get the title of that story wrong.

Sprite was a great name, Ariel, not so much (for a superhero). I never quite understood why Claremont and Marvel didn’t stick with that, unless they had problems with Coca-Cola.

The Shooter era at Marvel was a rather interesting time. On the one hand, he is a complete control freak who learned his people skills from Mort Weisinger, who made Atilla the Hun look compassionate. On the other hand, he brought some order to the company, after years of missed deadlines and reprint fillers, and elevated the sales of the line as a whole. From a management standpoint, that’s pretty darn good. From a creativity standpoint, it led to pretty much the same story in every Marvel book. The New Universe was an utter failure; yet, after a bit of retooling, the same concepts are a big hit with the early launch of Valiant. The man is an interesting dichotomy.

Somewhat off topic, but I recently read the X-Men issue that introduces Caliban (the Morlock one, obviously, though the Morlocks aren’t mentioned in his first appearance) and man that’s a weird issue. You could get at least three entries for a “Top Five Powers X-Men Forgot They Had” from that issue alone (my favorite: Wolverine literally turns invisible at one point, explained as an “old ninja trick” he learned in Japan). Also weird is that Caliban’s mutant detection power (the only power he consistently had through all his appearances) picks up Spider-Woman too. And there’s a delightful bit where Storm, Kitty, and Spider-Woman are talking to Caliban one moment and then in literally the next panel on the same page Spider-Woman informs Storm that Caliban slipped away while no was looking.

makes me wonder, who came up with the name “Shadowcat”? It wasn’t even remotely there when the character was designed.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how awful Travis Charest once was, his slowness and virtuosity now becoming his trademarks, after dropping the Lee-clone stage

Would be nice to see an article on artists with huge evolutions, like Miller and Charest (as opposed to artist whose art always looks the exact same like Byrne and Lee -discounting his Miller aping stage)

I think the name Shadowcat came from a Magick series.

So is this why Karma appeared in MTU 100 (a great story)? Almost like a back-door pilot.

Kitty first got the name “Shadowcat” at the end of “Kitty Pryde and Wolverine”. Black Manta, you’re probably thinking of “Magik: Storm and Illyana”, wherein an alternate version of Kitty was just called “Cat”.

“And there’s a delightful bit where Storm, Kitty, and Spider-Woman are talking to Caliban one moment and then in literally the next panel on the same page Spider-Woman informs Storm that Caliban slipped away while no was looking”

I just happened to re-read some of those issues lately (the early post-Byrne X-men.) That specific moment felt like Claremont trying to cover for a goof on Cockrum’s part. I think they were still using the Marvel-method at that point for scripting.

That said, the shift from the sophisticated Byrne co-plotted issues to the much more all-ages Cockrum drawn run (his 2nd run on the book) is pretty stark if you re-read those Essential books. Claremont apparently was very influenced by who his artist was.

That’s not meant as a knock on Cockrum. A lot of the most beloved characters of that period were his idea or at least co-creations and it was during the Brood saga that I first fell in love with the X-men (so thankfully it was all-ages, as a 10 year old me could follow it). But man,that Byrne-Claremont team was something truly special. Still as good as mainstream comics get.

@T

“Charest only did the covers. The interior art was still Aparo, Breyfogle, Blevins, Nolan, and Manley, none of whom had a very 90s style. You dropped the books just based on the covers? Also, Charest didn’t do that many covers. He was quickly replaced on covers by Kelley Jones, who in my minority opinion was far worse. When he started doing interiors I quit the Batbooks.”

I’m sure I’m misremembering timelines. When I think of Charest, I think of Darkstars, which I never picked up. I just remember seeing his art sometime later and thinking “This is the same guy?”

(Agree on Kelly Jones, BTW.)

And yeah, I did drop them based on the covers. It was more a budget thing, IIRC, and covers like that would usually lead me to pass a book I was considering, or drop a book I was condering dropping. I hated all the “follow the leader” that was going on at that time…

“Would be nice to see an article on artists with huge evolutions”

THIS.

I think I mentioned it in last week’s installment of CBLR, but when you see the current artwork of guys like Art Thibert, Dan Panosian and Mark Pacella, compared to the stuff (junk?) they did in the 90′s and early 2000′s, it looks like completely different artists drew the before and afters. Same thing with Tony S. Daniel, although not as much as the aforementioned three. His stuff on X-Force and his the work he does now at DC? Wow.

You could probably throw Greg Capullo, John Romita Jr., and Ron Lim in there as well.

The Willie Evans story is likely forgotten because it’s not by Kirby or Byrne. Every other FF run seems to get half-forgotten. Even the Simonson and Waid runs are almost never referenced (except for Doom’s revelation that other Dooms were really Doombots, the “new FF,” and meeting Jack Kirby in heaven). Kirby casts his longest shadow on the book. Byrne’s FF was good enough to stand on its own (at least for the first 20-something issues), and Byrne’s superstar status brought considerable attention to the series.

Wow. I’m a big fan of Claremont’s X-Men run, but I’m glad that nasty caricature of a “Deliverance-country” “Jethro” never made it to the page. Offensive and shallow.

I think Stan Lee’s silver age stuff varies hugely depending on the artist. There are a couple of early Cap stories drawn by John Buscema and Cap sounds much more like Peter Parker (mooning and moaning for the woman he loves) than he does the Lee/Kirby version.

I’ve had that Fantastic Four issue ever since I was a kid, and I never thought it was very good. I did wonder why he never appeared in X-Men, since the ending clearly set it up for him to appear there. Then I happened to buy that Iron Man Annual at a flea market about a year after it came out. (It was only the second Iron Man I ever bought.) And there was that kid again. I was just glad that someone remembered him. Even though I didn’t like the original story, it really bothered me that nobody had followed up on it.

I don’t think Willie would’ve worked as a member of any New Mutants-type team, though. He was too young. Even if this younger team would only see combat occasionally, it still would’ve felt wrong to send a kid that young out into the field. Of course, this is somewhat contradicted by the fact he was just so ultra-powerfull.

I don’t really see a racial issue in killing him off. The combination of immaturity and omnipotence always causes problems. Characters like him tend to get killed off no matter what their ethnicity.

Mary: Well, except Franklin Richards, who had that same combination of immaturity and omnipotence.

@Mike Lukash – Dixon wrote Ted Kord in Birds of Prey a fair bit.

I loved Dixon’s take on the Huntress. Those early stories (Tec, Robin 3 mini and a 3 parter in the Robin ongoing) are what got me hooked on Helena. And she stayed one of my favourite characters all the way up to No Man’s Land, Cry for Blood and Simone’s early Birds of Prey issues.

RIP Helena Bertinelli.

I would love to try out Dixon’s Green Arrow. But the back issues are way to expensive and there are no trades. :-(

FF 203 was drawn by Keith Pollard, a black man, which you may think contributed to a non-stereotypical treatment of the kid. But the mention of the jive talking Luke Cage reminded me that his 70s run was drawn by Billy Graham, another black cartoonist. Did Graham approve of the stereotypes of THAT book? (We’ll never know because he’s deceased.) But remember the time period of the Cage books.
Frank Miller definitely belongs on a list of artists whose work improved by leaps and bounds. I have his first published work from Twilight Zone and it’s soooooo awful. Compared to his first Daredevil issue, which is really nice stuff (unless a lot of it was just Klaus Janson fixing everything).
And yes, I hated all of those Liefeld wannabes and the whole 90s Image styles, but I did enjoy Kelley Jones on Batman. I thought he made the book scary and almost Vertigo-like, which was fine with me. And I hope the Snyder/Capullo run ranks with the O’Neil/Adams/Novick run to future generations. The Batman titles are the last titles left of the New 52 I still collect.

Reading Batman Illustrated by Neil Adams shows Adams’ art changing. Not that it was awful when he started but you can see his mastery of the Bat-look developing from the beginning to end of the first volume (he talks about how he changed in the intro to the second).

If you do the article on artistic evolution I would also include Olivier Coipel. Compare his “Legion of the Damned” work to his current output. It’s a pretty staggering maturation.

ParanoidObsessive

September 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm

The Shooter era at Marvel was a rather interesting time. On the one hand, he is a complete control freak who learned his people skills from Mort Weisinger, who made Atilla the Hun look compassionate. On the other hand, he brought some order to the company, after years of missed deadlines and reprint fillers, and elevated the sales of the line as a whole. From a management standpoint, that’s pretty darn good. From a creativity standpoint, it led to pretty much the same story in every Marvel book.

Ehh. From my perspective, it led to some of the best storylines and extended runs Marvel has ever had, right up to this day. It’s definitely worth noting that a lot of what we tend to think of as “definitive” runs or really strong storylines happened either directly under his EiC rule, or was directly influenced by it. And that Marvel seemed to enter something of a creative nosedive across the board after he was fired. The same applies when it comes to Valiant – a phenomenally well-written universe that garnered critical acclaim (no pun intended) while he was in control, which essentially started crumbling the moment they forced him out the door, and which never recovered.

If nothing else, I certainly remember Simonson’s Thor run, or Claremont’s strongest run on Uncanny X-Men, or David Michelinie and Bob Layton’s run on Iron Man, or… (and so on) …a hell of a lot more than I do almost anything that happened for the entire decade of the 90′s. And most of the 2000′s.

The main reason why people tend to think of him negatively was because a lot of the people whose egos he’d bruised were really vocal in their hate, and had a pretty clear axe to grind and a strong agenda to vilify him as much as possible. But in retrospect, a LOT of those detractors seem to make for really poor character witnesses (Byrne, in particular, was one of his biggest detractors – but a lot of stories have come out about Byrne over the last 20 or so years that imply he’s kind of an ******* himself). And even in cases where the people complaining DO have a bit of credibility, it often seems like their complaints are motivated more by politics, personality issues, or even occasional misunderstandings rather than poor management on his part

(for fun, track down his blog and read some of his posts about his memories of his time at Marvel and Valiant. Sure, it’s going to be biased in his favor, but it certainly casts a lot of specific complaints about him in entirely different lights, and if nothing else, it’s probably fairer to at least let a man speak in his own defense rather than forming your entire opinion of him based on the slurs and insults of his most vocal detractors)

Looking back, it seems like he might have been one of the most effective EiCs Marvel ever had. Sure, he certainly misstepped from time to time (Avengers #200 is a BLATANTLY obvious example), and there were certainly times when he let his own enthusiasm cause problems (90% of Valiant’s problems seemed to be a severe disconnect between the creative side and business end of the deal, which seems to have happened because Shooter was idealistically naive about how venture capitalists actually work). And he certainly made enemies in the office due to “politics”. But a lot of his “political” decisions weren’t even his, as much as they were him being forced to be the go-between passing on dictates from corporate (ie, most of the Kirby debacle, which is where a LOT of the general dislike for him stems from, where he had to toe the corporate line even when he personally disagreed with it). And his overall editorial style, while certainly strict and prone to irritate any number of creators used to getting their own way and not being answerable to anyone, led to positive results far more often than not. Not the least of which was actually getting books out on time.

Strong editorial control, as much as some artists and writers HATE it, was essentially VERY good for Marvel (and for franchise/contract writing in general, honestly). The key is that the editorial control has to be POSITIVE. Under Shooter, there was a definitely attempt made to preserve characters so that they wouldn’t become completely unusable to future writers or require massive retcons to “fix” things, and to avoid ridiculously over the top or sensationalist stories that were meant to shock at the expense of the franchise. The editor’s job was to reign in the worst excesses and terrible ideas of writers while still allowing them enough freedom to tell a strong story. Creative types rarely like that sort of oversight, but that sort of oversight is often necessary regardless. It was, in many cases, the ideal editorial scenario. And many of the creative types who were most vocally opposed to it were the ones who absolutely needed that oversight the most.

Since then we’ve seen comics that come apart at the seams because there’s almost no editorial control at all, and we’ve seen examples like current DC where editorial seems to be in firm control (even oppressively so), but where the inmates are running the asylum (and trying to force all their own creative ideas on the writer as if they were ghost writing by proxy). A good editor needs to step outside of their own ego, and try to objectively consider what’s best for a story and what’s best for a franchise. Under Shooter, I’d say that, most of the time, that’s exactly what was done. Since then… it’s a much rarer phenomenon.

If anything, I think what we need today are more EiCs like Shooter (and more people in the chain of command that were like his people in the early 80′s, as opposed to people like Bob Harras and Jim Lee). But creator egos have gotten even more fragile since his era, and corporate (rather than creative) oversight has grown much stronger since then, so I don’t think we’ll ever see his like again. And I tend to think comics (at least the main two) will continue to suffer for it.

Thanks for answering the question about Huntress – nice to finally put that thought to rest! I love Dixon’s early Huntress stuff – I agree with James above, it was those stories that hooked me too, and I loved her through to Simone’s early Birds of Prey until she went of the boil a bit. Levitz’ new take on Helena Wayne looks the part but I can’t help but think the series is just a bit blah. *Sigh*

Willie Evans end isn’t the same as Conovor becoming a bad guy; it’d be if the boy who collects (collected would be a spoiler, no?) Spider-man end up not being dead and becoming a super-villain.

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